I have a special place in my heart for people who make earnest attempts toward self-improvement. Many of us resolve to lose weight or drink less or stop getting pissed off at other drivers (that's me), but few of us ever stick to these resolutions; ideas that are, let's face it, usually acts of contrition.
David Finch is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as his marriage is falling apart. Deciding Asperger syndrome must be the cause of the failing marriage, David chooses to keep a journal containing a list of reminders of things he should do better.
His wife is open but hesitant. She reminds him that the failings in their five-year marriage are deep and personal; they can't just blame Asperger syndrome and move on.
The chapter titles themselves caused me to laugh out loud. They are based off of Best Practices that David learns and include such reminders as "Laundry: Better to Fold and Put Away than to Take Only What You Need From the Dryer", "Give Kristen Time to Shower Without Crowding Her", and "Parties are Supposed to be Fun". I remind myself of that last one constantly. He is wryly funny and newly self-aware of his self-involved ways.
What made me fall in love with this book was the evolving dynamic between David and his wife, Kristen. David helps us to see the resentment that can build up after years of one person exhibiting self-obsessed behavior. However, he is empathetic with Kristen, despite his concerns as to whether people with Asperger syndrome are capable of empathy. He uses his diagnosis to work within his neurological differences to become the best husband possible. I think that all of us, whether or not we have a diagnosis, would be wise to engage in such a practice.
Kristen practices profound patience. However, she is no saint. She gets frustrated and sad and they occasionally shout at each other. Still, she often makes it clear that she loves him very much. She also lets him know when his Best Practices are encroaching on her sacred and scarce alone time, such as when he presents her with a "Husband Performance Review" form while she is taking a hot bath. The form, a Best Practice that David devised after receiving a performance review at work, is something with which David often chases Kristen around the house, asking her to fill out until she finally comes up with the last Best Practice: "Don't Make Everything A Best Practice"
Asperger syndrome is a hot topic today. I have read books, watched movies and T.V. shows, and learned about Asperger syndrome in special education classes. However, David showed a family effected by Asperger syndrome in such a complex way as to evoke empathy, laughter, sadness, frustration, and joy. I struggle with people who put people with developmental disabilities in the "Them" category, as though there is something distinct that separates any of us from anyone else. This book reminds us that, in certain profound ways, we are all fundamentally the same.
"In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin" by Erik Larson
"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand
Books read: 44